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Industry 4.0 Will Help Fuel Economy Post Election

Pete Wilkins

Days after the election, individuals, communities and the nation at large are still trying to predict how the results will impact the markets.

Despite the differences of the parties’ platforms, however, both Democrats and Republicans ultimately support strengthening the economy and increasing jobs in the U.S. That said, how will emerging tech markets respond and expand in these uncertain times?  

In the Midwest, some of the most promising tech sectors are emerging from a long history of world-class manufacturing companies headquartered in the heartland. These companies are a big part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, this is not your grandfather’s industrial revolution. This is the transformation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices that is using modern smart technology, a powerful blend of hardware, software and artificial intelligence. When you peel back the layers, you’ll find trillions of dollars in market opportunities in the following sectors:

  • Smart Manufacturing and Industrial Internet of Things: As a result of the challenges from the global pandemic, this $709 billion market is growing even more, faster. Manufacturers realized they needed to be flexible and provide solutions when global supply chains were suddenly disrupted. Similarly, this year revealed an increased need for machine to machine communication, automation, robotics and other IIoT technologies.
  • Med Tech: Typical regulatory barriers have been reduced because of the Covid-19 outbreak, which allows for innovations to break through in relation to timing, product development and design. Even once regulations return, it is expected that the competitive landscape will look different moving forward. After a year prioritizing health consciousness, healthcare and digital medical technology will continue to grow from its current market size of $312 billion.
  • Smart Homes and Buildings: Internal collaboration tools and the necessity for adaptability within the work environment were greatly influenced by the pandemic. Now, there is an opportunity to make hard assets more adaptable and to improve remote work capabilities. It is expected that smarter equipment, buildings and collaboration tools will shape the next decade. This $22 billion market is expected 5-year market growth is 247%, which will create a lot of opportunity for startup disruption.
  • Connected Devices: Now more than ever, it is important for companies to be able to sustain unpredictable or industry-level changes. Hardtech products, as well as digital apps and tangible collateral, create a strong business model to adapt to those unforeseen changes. This $26 billion market is ripe for strong growth for the foreseeable future.

With Industry 4.0 picking up steam, it is reasonable to predict that the Midwest will be at the center of it. From Ford to Medtronic to John Deere, the Midwest has a strong history of manufacturing success. As an industrial leader, the region continues to drive growth and increase jobs for the Midland and beyond. Better yet, there is an even brighter future ahead. 

One of the organizations emerging as a leader for this revolution is mHUB. The nation’s largest hardtech innovation and manufacturing center was launched to develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem around physical products and hardware innovation. mHUB focuses to accelerate industry growth by cultivating a community of collaboration and connection between innovators, entrepreneurs and manufacturers. 

Working with a collection of early partners such as GE, UL and Molex, mHUB built a state-of-the-art facility. Thus, mHUB eliminates the high barriers of entry for hardtech innovation by providing access to capital intensive equipment, business and technical training, and a robust network of mentors, investors and partners. Since 2017, mHUB has supported over 350 startups, developed 900 products and attracted over $320 million in investments. While based in Chicago, the success of mHUB is evidenced across the country. 

In an effort to accelerate Industry 4.0 growth, mHUB created the Product Impact Fund, and launched an incubation program for rapid commercialization called Accelerated Incubation. The Product Impact Fund is dedicated to investments in hardtech startups building IoT, medical devices, smart cities and other tech. The goal is to eliminate the funding gap for hardtech startups and solidify the U.S. as the global leader in the latest industrial revolution. The venture fund is complemented by Accelerated Incubation, which is a six-month, hands-on accelerator focused on the product development and commercialization of early-stage, high-potential hardtech startups. In each cohort, ten companies will have access to nearly a million dollars in investment capital and a variety of support and testing opportunities. So far, mHUB has partnered with Avenet, Panduit and Baxter to support the first two cohorts of the program.

Of course, mHUB is not alone. Another organization in Chicago working diligently to help industrial tech companies grow and scale is P33, which is a private sector funded tech catalyst working to turbocharge Chicago’s tech ecosystem and promote inclusive economic growth. They’ve developed a program called P33 Company Connect, which introduces corporations and startups in Chicago to create more commercial activity. They are focused on the growth stage tech companies. Through facilitating curated connections around specific use cases, they are helping scale growth stage startups through acquisition of enterprise customers and improve access to capital for women and minority entrepreneurs.

The impact from P33 can already be exemplified by companies such as Impossible Objects and Xaptum. Impossible Objects is providing manufacturing companies with a cost-effective 3D printing solution that produces strong, market-ready products in an accelerated time frame. Their composite-based, strong and quick additive manufacturing capabilities yield high stiffness, strength and fidelity that is critical to manufacturers of certain products (imagine the most complex automotive parts or associated tooling). 

Xaptum goes further. The company has developed an enabling technology to scale and secure enterprise edge deployments such as Industrial IoT (IIoT) and machine vision. Their overlay network secures traffic between IoT devices and any cloud through any last-mile connection, 10X faster at 20% of the cost of alternative systems. Not only does Xaptum’s technology protect the data from the sensors and machine vision equipment from being modified by unwanted parties, but the overlay network also enables interoperability between different assets, giving operations leaders even more options on how to run their equipment. This technology provides significant impact for utilities, TDL and manufacturing companies with large and dispersed asset bases. 

Chicago has long been home to a host of industrial behemoths, like ITW, Grainger and Navistar, to name a few more. It is no wonder that many innovative industrial tech companies have sprouted here as well. These growth stage companies offer solutions that improve the flexibility of core manufacturing processes, protect and optimize the extensive asset base and extend the capabilities of their customers’ workforces. 

The Midwest has positioned itself to be a leader in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It will be exciting to watch the continued innovation, collaboration and leadership from the heartland region.

This article was written by Pete Wilkins from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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